I started yesterday by joining a guided walk around Arlington Cemetery. The hostel I’m staying at offers regular tours to various venues and areas, led by local volunteers. A short Metro hop took us under the Potomac River and into Virginia, the state from which the cemetery overlooks Washington. In fact, from the top of the hill there, you can see three states, the third being Maryland.
Arlington is as sombre and as impressive as you would imagine, and impeccably maintained. As well as its famous military burials, dating back to the civil war, it has the graves of John F Kennedy and wife Jackie, and his brother Edward. There’s also a monument to those lost in the Lockerbie bombing and a tomb for unknown soldiers from various conflicts. Before leaving, I was lucky enough to see a very smart, male Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina).
My next call was George Washington University, venue for the Wikimania conference. After a great lunch and yet more catching up with friends, I attended a “Wiki Loves Libraries” event, to which librarians from other institutions had been invited. I gave a lightning talk on QRpedia, and had some useful discussions about Authority Control and Wikidata.
Then it was time to turn to the hostel, which I did by bike, to freshen and smarten up, before travelling to the Library of Congress for the formal reception event kindly sponsored by Google. Fine food and free beer certainly helped the mood, and I caught up with more people I’d met in Amsterdam, and met the official Archivist of the United States.
I particularly enjoyed viewing a display of significant American books including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which was written in my home town, Birmingham, England!
The view of the sunset behind the Capitol building was breathtaking. A courtesy bus took us to Dupont Circle, where a group of Brits and one German-Namibian found a bar for more refreshments (I enjoyed the best beer I’ve had here so far, an oatmeal porter), and put the World, or at least Wikipedia, to rights. There are some very interesting issues for Wikipedians in Namibia, where internet connectivity is patchy, and where source material is often not readily available. Work is underway to provide a self-contained, offline version of Wikipedia for schools there. We also enjoyed some pretty loud rock music, including the sublime ‘Freebird‘. The 18-year-old me who bought that on a 12″ single, would never have dreamed he’d one day listen to it in an American dive bar.